With more people than ever turning to online shopping this holiday season, scammers are working overtime to steal personal and financial information. With that in mind, it’s important to take steps to protect your personal information from online scams and financial fraud.
A recent Experian survey found that 24% of respondents reported being a victim of identity theft or fraud during the holidays, up from 12% in 2019. And thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, 62% of Americans say they'll do more of their shopping online compared with last year, according to the same survey, creating additional opportunities for scammers.
By exercising a little vigilance, you can avoid becoming a victim. Consider these 12-holiday fraud prevention tips:
Don’t fall for the Amazon scheme.
Be wary of calls from people claiming to be from Amazon or similar shopping sites needing to verify the information for packages. Amazon will never call you to request bank account information.
Prevent porch piracy.
Having your package delivered to your work, choosing the “ship to store” option, or requesting a signature confirmation are all ways to keep your deliveries safe. You can also track your shipments to ensure you are home when your packages arrive.
Shop sites you know.
The best way to keep your credit card information safe this holiday season is to shop sites you know. If the site you’re using seems poorly designed or seems to have issues like broken links or crashing, you could be on a fake scam site.
Check banking activity.
Keep a list of transactions if you’re doing a lot of holiday shopping so you don’t overlook a fraudulent transaction. Regularly check your accounts and credit cards and report fraud immediately to your bank.
Update your antivirus software.
Ensure your antivirus software is up to date to help protect yourself while shopping online.
Avoid public Wi-Fi.
Do not conduct online shopping or banking using public Wi-Fi networks, which are not always secure. Scammers using the same network may be able to access your files or monitor your internet activity.
Use different passwords.
Avoid using the same password across multiple sites. If one is compromised, you won’t be handing over your password to other sites.
Set up alerts.
Set up email or text alerts with your credit card company so you are notified of any purchases made with your card.
Avoid too-good-to-be-true offers.
Beware of fraudsters trying to lure you in with amazing deals during the holidays. These sites may look legitimate, but when you place your order, you’re handing over your personal and financial data. If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
Be cautious about shipping notices.
With so many people ordering online and awaiting packages, fraudsters send phishing emails purporting to be from shipping carriers such as FedEx or UPS. When you click on the link, it can download malware on your computer. Use extra caution to ensure shipping notifications are legitimate.
Avoid charity scams.
Most charitable giving occurs in December, so fraudsters create bogus charities to cash in on your generosity. Take time to verify an organization’s validity before donating.
Find a “real” Santa letter provider.
There are legitimate businesses that offer custom letters from Santa. However, this is a great way for fraudsters to obtain personal information about your children. Verify the company’s legitimacy before providing personal information.
When in doubt, contact your local National Bank of Arizona branch before responding to potentially fraudulent inquiries.
Catheryn Eisaman-Avalos is Zions Bancorporation’s Financial Crimes Risk Strategies manager.
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